Vegan dining in New York City

By Midge Raymond,

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since the hardcover book tour for My Last Continent. It was not only a fabulous tour but so much fun to eat well along the way. I discovered one fabulous vegan eatery when I stopped in with friends at La Botaniste after my reading at Shakespeare & Co.


This entirely plant-based wine bar has a fabulous menu. You order at the counter, and the bowls are made to order.

I had the pasta, with vegan bolongnese sauce — it is a gigantic, flavorful, and wonderful meal.


I didn’t take photos of everyone’s food (it all disappeared very quickly), but everything was wonderful, from appetizers like hummus and red-beet caviar to the soups and rice bowls.

There is also a wonderful selection of pastries, cookies, pies, and puddings. It’s a friendly place with good wines and great prices, especially for New York.




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Vegan dining in Berkeley: The Butcher’s Son

By Midge Raymond,

The Butcher’s Son on University Avenue is a vegan deli but also feels like a “classic” deli, with its huge portions, its “meats” and “cheeses” behind glass cases, and the preparation of all the foods just over the counter.

It’s a small space, with about a half-dozen tables inside and a few more on the sidewalk outside. Sandwiches and salads (including bacon macaroni, creamy coleslaw, potato salad) are served all day, and brunch on weekends includes pancakes and a “steak and egg hoagie.” Appetizers include fried mozzarella, and there’s a kids’ menu and a mouth-watering selection of desserts, from cupcakes to cannoli.

The menu changes regularly, which is a good reason to go back as many times as possible. (If you’re looking at the menu online, check out the little camera icon to see what certain dishes look like.)

On the day we were there we had three delicious (and gigantic) sandwiches. (Important tip: Consider sharing meals so you’ll have room for dessert.)

I had the tuna salad sandwich on rye (I’d ordered the tuna melt but got this instead, and was not even slightly disappointed; I think I liked it even more than I might’ve enjoyed the melt). The sandwich comprises perfectly prepared and spiced tempeh tuna salad on rye with vegan mayo, mustard, onion, lettuce, avocado, and tomato. The bacon macaroni salad was delicious, and I got a side of bleu cheese (which normally goes with the melted version), and it was absolutely delicious — tangy with a crumbly texture.

We also sampled the chick’n pesto…sliced chick’n with pesto mayonnaise, hot cracked pepper chick’n, grilled mozzarella, and tomato. The bread was lightly toasted, the mozzarella perfectly melted, and the creamy coleslaw on the side was delicious.

And finally, the turkey grinder, which was even more gigantic than the other two overwhelmingly large sandwiches. This one is a toasted French bun with “grinder meat” (thinly sliced vegan turkey, gorgeously spiced), cracked pepper turkey, bacon, melted nacho cheese, pickled jalapeño, and iceberg lettuce. Because it was impossible to finish in one sitting, we discovered that taking home the leftovers is well worth it; it was just as delicious the next day.

For such a busy and popular place, the service is quick and efficient. And if you don’t save room for dessert, be sure to get some to go, along with plenty of vegan “meats” and dairy-free cheeses.

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Vegan dining in San Francisco: Shizen

By Midge Raymond,

If you’re a vegan who used to love sushi, you will rejoice over San Francisco’s Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya. As a vegan who never liked sushi, I nevertheless rejoiced upon visiting this lovely place, which has vegan raw fish and so, so much more.

The restaurant is tiny, and there is always a long wait (for our party, which arrived after eight o’clock on a Wednesday night, the wait was more than an hour and a half). But it’s well worth it.

For sushi lovers, there is a seemingly endless menu of vegan options — the carnivore among us loved every bite and vows to return again. Even if you’re not a sushi fan, there are a great many dishes to enjoy. As an appetizer, the garlic edamame is to die for.

For those who like miso and ramen, there are several delicious choices; I loved the soy ramen, which came with perfectly prepared noodles, a savory broth, and bacony-flavored tofu (which, to our delight, very much impressed the carnivore).

The rolls include Philadelphia rolls, California rolls, “tofuna” rolls, and so much more.

There’s also a dish known as the “Surprise Ending,” in which one (and only one) of the bites is incredibly spicy.

And all this is just the beginning; there are myriad more dishes, including tempura, stuffed mushrooms, gyoza (glorious fried dumplings), and sweet potato croquettes…and on and on. You’ll need more than one visit to enjoy all there is to offer here; we are already looking forward to going back.


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Vegan dining in San Francisco: Samovar Tea Lounge

By Midge Raymond,

When I was in San Francisco for Litquake last fall, I enjoyed a lovely post-event lunch with friends at Samovar Tea Lounge. It was a perfect spot for a tea-infused mimosa and a bite to eat on an autumn weekend — and there are myriad vegetarian and vegan options.

I ordered from among the dishes that pair tea with food, and in this case my “Japanese Service” came with a Ryokucha Green Tea.


The Japanese Service itself was delicious, with seaweed salad, brown rice, kale, butternut squash, nori, and handmade tempeh.


One friend enjoyed toast with almond butter, banana, and sesame seeds…



…and another had the veggie sandwich, which included avocado, roasted peppers, arugula, baked zucchini, red onion, olive oil and basil pesto.


The location was lovely, with outdoor seating and open-air indoor seating, all overlooking Yerba Buena gardens and a short walk to the Museum of Modern Art and many other wonderful places to visit.

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Happy World Penguin Day!

By Midge Raymond,

One thing I’m celebrating on World Penguin Day is having met my seventh species of penguin: the little penguin. Ever since meeting four species of penguins in Antarctica, I’ve become a little obsessed: Next I went to Argentina to volunteer with the University of Washington’s Penguin Sentinels, counting the Magellanic penguins of Punto Tombo. On more recent visit to the Galápagos Islands, I was able to see the elusive and endangered Galápagos penguin. And last year, one of the best things about visiting Australia as part of the My Last Continent tour was meeting my seventh species.

The little penguin is also called the “fairy penguin” in Australia, and in New Zealand it’s known as the “blue penguin” or “white-flippered penguin.”

All names fit this little bird, as it is no more than a foot tall, and its feathers are a lovely bluish-gray and white. These penguins appear in several places in Australia, one of them being Manly, where you can see signs like this on the sidewalks, alongside indicators for bikes and pedestrians:


The little penguins forage at sea all day and come ashore when darkness falls. One of the best places to see them is the (terribly touristy) Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, which is a two-hour journey from Melbourne and completely worth it, especially if you can ignore the other tourists (some of whom are respectful, far too many of whom are noisy, take photos (which aren’t allowed), and otherwise flaunt the rules of the park and disturb the birds).

Once it gets dark, no photos or videos are allowed, but on a daylight walk we glimpsed this little penguin, near the natural and man-made burrows created to provide nesting opportunities for them.

Years ago, the little penguins’ numbers here on Phillip Island decreased dramatically when a bridge was built and humans began inhabiting and vacationing on the island, bringing foxes, dogs, and other predators, including traffic; even now, many penguins are run over by cars. Foxes have now been eliminated, and while the birds’ numbers are still down in Australia, we can hope the conservation efforts pay off. One effort is the building of nests for them; below, you can just barely see a little penguin inside one of these man-made burrows.

The little penguins are adorable to watch. After the sun sets, they come in from the water in “rafts” — groups from five to ten penguins to dozens — because there is safety in numbers, and they shake off the water and waddle up the sand to the scrubby brush where they have their nests. Perhaps because they’re so small, they always look as though they’re walking in a huge hurry, as if being chased. (If you do visit Phillip Island, sit tight and wait until the crowds disperse and until the rangers tell you at least three times that it’s time to go. This is when it gets quiet and peaceful, and you can hear nothing but the sounds of the penguins scuttling to their nests and calling to their mates.)

Another place to see the little penguins is much closer to Melbourne is the breakwater at St. Kilda, where the penguins come to shore every night after sunset. Guides are there to enforce similar rules (no photography, no approaching the penguins), and it’s about a half-hour away from downtown Melbourne by bus or light rail.

To celebrate World Penguin Day, here are a few links where you can learn more and support conservation efforts for penguins around the world:

UW Penguin Sentinels


The Penguin Counters

Wishing you a very happy World Penguin Day!